I saw a crow climb down one
step of a flight of stairs:
a revelation of shining blackness,
a long plume of ink on the white stone.
The whole descent—mine and the crow’s—was redolent of birch trees and honey.
Our bodies—the crow’s and mine—were lean and old.
Watching him move I saw
how stained his black was, how
hesitant his whole deportment.
My legs too, stained here and there by age and the sun,
were a sign, as that blind hopping was for him.
And yet both of us were enamored: he of his few shining feathers
I of what grace remained:
the way my legs tapered to my feet and my feet were lightly tensed
and frail (like his) with crimson claws.
Then we fly off, he skywards, I toward the earth
that waits for me, down there, beneath the steps:
a patch of earth, still colourless, but with stones and moss,
an unexplored continent.
It’s a wavering grace.
The sky closes over the crow.
The stone creaks under my steps, an orchestra of gravel.
It swallows parts of me. Wears down my talons.
—Translated by Jamie McKendrick
This poem originally ran in the August 4, 2011, issue of the magazine.